New Zealand electric utility Mercury will develop the country’s first large-scale generation capacity addition since 2014 with a 119MW wind farm set to be built in the south of the North Island, a project that has been in the development pipeline for 15 years.
Mercury announced this week that it had committed to constructing the first 33 of 60 planned wind turbines for the 119MW Turitea wind farm, near Palmerston North.
The project is billed as “a key milestone in New Zealand’s renewable energy development” as it looks to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy generation by 2035.
New Zealand already boasts impressive renewable energy figures. Renewable power was responsible for 85 per cent of the country’s power generation in the second quarter with 11,046 GWh of electricity being fed into the country’s electricity grid.
Hydropower was the top renewable energy sources, followed by wind farms and geothermal – all of which outperformed gas generation.
The new 119MW Turitea wind farm will generate 470GWh of electricity per year, with construction expected to begin in August and operations beginning by late-2020. Upon completion, it will be New Zealand’s third-largest wind farm and, more importantly, is the first large-scale generation addition to the country’s capacity since 2014.
“The estimated $256 million project supports the opening up of a further $750 million investment opportunity in wind energy development,” said Mercury’s Chief Executive, Fraser Whineray, who added that the current market conditions indicate that new renewable energy capacity is required for the country.
Construction of the project will be carried out by Vestas-New Zealand Wind Technology Limited, a subsidiary of global wind turbine giant Vestas Wind Systems, who will also maintain the project after completion.
Announcing the impending construction of the Turitea wind farm is the result of over 15 years of planning and development on the part of Mercury, who in 2004 created a strategy to add wind to its portfolio of renewable generation assets and, 12 months later, established a wind energy team.
“With this announcement, Mercury has realised the ‘awesome foursome’ of renewables – hydro, geothermal, solar and wind – that enhance our contribution to New Zealand’s green energy future,” Whineray said.
“The Turitea wind farm will contribute to New Zealand’s sustainable, low emissions future, as well as to our country’s energy freedom by making more renewable, kiwi-made electricity available for homes, businesses and vehicles around the country.”
Mercury already boasts around 6,800 GWh of renewable electricity generation each year – approximately 16% of the country’s total electricity generation – from its hydro and geothermal stations located in the central North Island.
The company also operates Mercury Solar, the country’s only solar installer, electricity retailer, and 100% renewable energy generator.
“The development of renewable energy projects in provincial New Zealand also helps to support local economies through more jobs and spending,” Whineray added. “And, when we break ground for this in a matter of months, it further establishes the Manawatu as New Zealand’s hub for wind energy production. It’s one of the best locations in the world.
“Mercury acknowledges and thanks local councils, landowners and iwi for their engagement through the process of getting to this milestone, and we look forward to working with them and other stakeholders during the construction activity to follow.”